Sunday, September 5, 2010
After our first Sunday at Calvary Grace, we were glad to make some contacts with some quality folks that share a common desire to be rooted in the gospel and relevant in telling others about the person and work of Jesus Christ.
We are anticipating a fruitful ministry in and around the Calgary region. As God continues to magnify the riches of his mercy and grace in our lives, we trust that he will give us humble obedience to his will and ways. To God be the glory as we seek to please him in all respects.
Monday, May 31, 2010
Monday, May 24, 2010
In recent days I have undergone some much needed sharpening from men of influence in my life. As a man that is prone to dullness, I thought it would be fitting to express sincere thanks for three men in particular that put me back on the cutting edge. Although there are others that have ministered to me in different times and in different ways, God has used these three fellas in instrumental ways as of late. Interestingly enough, all three of these guys are currently serving in pastoral ministry with varied expressions of a similar call.
The first iron sharpener that I will comment on is the one I have known the longest out of the three. By his influence on my life I have been sharpened in matters concerning: godliness, sincerity, and instruction. As a young teenager I looked up to this cowboy preacher, as one who displayed a down-to-earth approach to living out the great truths he loved to proclaim. He and his wife have been involved with a church plant that has evidenced deep-biblical roots, and an increasing level of fruitfulness in gospel ministry.
The second iron sharpener is one that has had a great level of influence on me beginning with my college years. One of the ways that he has sharpened me is by convincing me that the key to understanding the New Testament is unlocking the Old Testament. As he took me through the Old Testament, I began to see more of Jesus in the typology of characters like Moses, and Joseph. In addition, this wise teacher seemed to help refine my passion for the sovereignty of God in such a way that is both worshipful and insightful to others.
The third iron sharpener is a peer that I have got to know over the past year. He has sharpened me in the area of diligence and commitment to finding out the meaning and implications on any given Scriptural text. Although he and I were raised on opposite sides of Canada, we have been brought near by a similar appreciation of the doctrines we love. Our mutual sharpening of one another made a sharp growth curve after travelling down to the Shepherd's Conference together in southern California.
I feel a sense of indebtedness to these men for their indispensable influence. I thank God through Christ for them.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Thomas Manton once wrote,
"Meditation is a middle sort of duty between the word and prayer, and hath respect to both. The word feedeth meditation, and meditation feedeth prayer; we must hear that we be not erroneous, and meditate that we be not barren. These duties must go hand in hand; meditation must follow hearing and precede prayer."
Thomas Watson defines meditation as,
"a holy exercise of the mind whereby we bring the truths of God to remembrance and do seriously ponder upon them and apply them to ourselves."
"A Christian without meditation is like a soldier without arms, or a workman without tools. Without meditation the truths of God will not stay with us; the heart is hard, and the memory is slippery, and without meditation all is lost."
Edmund Calamy said,
"A true meditation is when a man doth so meditate of Christ as to get his heart inflamed with the love of Christ, so meditate on the Truths of God, as to be transformed into them, and so meditate of sin as to get his heart to hate sin."
Calamy further instructs that,
"Meditation must enter three doors: the door of understanding, the door of the heart and affections, and the door of practical living."
By way of exhortation, Calamy commands,
"Thou must so meditate of God as to walk as God walks; and so to meditate of Christ as to prize him, and live in obedience to him."
(These great Puritan quotes and others can be found in Joel Beeke's Puritan Reformed Spirituality).
Perhaps my favorite place for meditation is on my rawhide lazy-boy. It is in the saddle that I often ponder the wonder of God's handiwork. From Meadowlark's to Crocus's I witness first hand God's wisdom and creativity in what he has made known to all mankind through general revelation. What's more, I reflect upon the excellencies of Christ and his once for all sacrifice for sin. I consider where I might be in life were it not for God's grace, his faithfulness, and his loving-kindness. Often times, like a cow chewing her cud, I bring up truths that are partially digested like the supremacy of God in all things. When I think upon God's sovereign rule over all things: from dust particles, to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, to the circumstances of life, I often respond in prayer and praise for all that God is for me in Christ.
I trust that meditation upon the living Word (Jesus), and the written Word (the Scriptures) will launch you into deeper intimacy with God, and growth in the knowledge of his character and ways. May the Spirit of God assist you and I both concerning the practice of meditation.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Fueled by impatience, selfishness, and lack of self control, my anger is clearly sin, and must be killed. The anger that rises up within me, is not righteous anger; but rebellion toward God. Not only does my anger grieve the Holy Spirit, it acts like rottenness in my bones, poison in my belly, and backed up sewer in my soul. This anger is relationship damaging, dishonoring to God and a poor example of Christ like ministry.
Outside the heart exposing truths of the Bible, I have found two sources that have served as ointment to my infection. The first was written by an English Puritan from the the 17th century named Richard Baxter called Anger Management. The second was written by a contemporary American Counselor named David Powlison called Anger: Escaping the Maze. By way of commenting, I will begin with the later, and conclude with some practical directions from the former.
Using the illustration of a traffic jam, Powlison determines that the motivations of anger are often: pride (my will be done as opposed to Thy will be done), fear of man ("What will people think of me if I am late"), and the lusts of the flesh ("I want" such and such - which may or may not be material worship). Powlison determines that when cravings or false beliefs rule my life they produce anger. He goes on to say, "If God ruled my life, I might feel disappointment, but I wouldn't be floundering in the swamp." At this point, when I experience a propensity toward anger I do well to ask myself, "What is ruling my heart at this time?" Is it God, me, others, animals, or stuff? The quicker I can evaluate what is ruling my heart, the quicker I will extinguish anger. In this way, I will fight anger by prizing the promises of God in Jesus Christ.
Richard Baxter also provides some great insights concerning anger. Here are 16 practical directions against sinful anger set out by the great Puritan writer himself.
- The principal help against sinful anger lies in accustoming the soul to right attitudes.
- Be careful to keep a humbled soul that does not think too highly of itself, for humility is patient and does not exaggerate injuries.
- Be careful to avoid a worldly and covetous mind.
- Put a stop to your anger early, before it goes too far.
- Take control of your tongue, hands, and countenance, even if you cannot at the moment quiet or command your passion.
- At the very least, keep silent until reason has had an opportunity to speak and you have had a chance to think.
- If you do not find it easy to quiet your anger or restrain yourself, then leave the place and company that have provoked you.
- Make it your habit to avoid talk and dispute with angry men, so far as you can do so without neglecting your duty.
- Do not meditate upon past injuries or things that have provoked you when you are alone.
- Keep your minds in lively thoughts of the exemplary meekness and patience of Jesus Christ.
- Live as in the presence of God; and when your passions grow bold, repress them with the reverend name of God, and remind yourself that God and his holy angels are watching you.
- Look at others in their passion, and consider how unlovely they make themselves.
- When anger rises, confess your sin without delay to those around. Take the shame to yourself. Shame the sin and honour God.
- If you have allowed your passion to break out and to offend or wrong others, by word or deed, freely and speedily confess it to them for forgiveness.
- As far as circumstances allow, go immediately to God in prayer for pardon, and grace against this sin.
- Make a covenant with a faithful friend to watch over you and rebuke your passions as soon as they begin to appear. Promise him that you will take it thankfully and in a proper spirit.
Here is some wisdom from the Scripture itself which cannot lie.
Ecclesiastes 7:9 - "Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools."
Proverbs 16:32 - "Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city."
Proverbs 15:18 - "A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention."
Proverbs 19:11 - "Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense."
Perhaps these words of wisdom will help us all as we seek to confront anger together.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
"But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication."
From this passage Piper makes two observations. On the one hand, Micah recognizes he is guilty of sin and accepts the sorrow and gloom that hang over him. He does not try to short-circuit God's discipline with sentimental talk of God's mercy. In the midst of this gloom under God's anger, Micah also gets right in the face of his enemy and exclaims, "Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise." Apparently the enemy is telling Micah that the sin cuts him off from God and leaves him in a hopeless situation. What makes Micah's guilt gutsy is that he counts on God's light in the darkness that God himself sent. He says, he will bear the consequence of his sin until God himself pleads his cause. In other words, while experiencing the guilt of his sin, the writer believes God will come and free him from darkness and enable him to live in joy again. Piper draws application by writing, "Micah's words are an utterly crucial illustration of how to preach the gospel to ourselves when discouragement and darkness threaten to overwhelm us as Christians. Micah's way-the biblical way-is very different from the quick fix that tries to deny the seriousness of sin and the pain of God's discipline" (pg. 89 When I Don't Desire God).
Over the past few months, some of the believers at Delia Christian Fellowship (including my wife and I) have been wrestling with how to fight besetting sin with proper remorse while at the same time acknowledging victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. I have been encouraged lately to see brothers and sisters in Christ take sin seriously like Micah did. People are beginning to see more of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and displaying brokenness, and contrition. At the same time, I trust that we are laying hold of the righteousness of Christ and displaying Micah like faith. Piper's use of the term "gutsy guilt" is complemented by Micah's "bold brokeness" in the fight for joy.
In contrast with gutsy guilt, Dietrich Bonhoeffer comments on an unwillingness to go with Micah into darkness and bearing God's reproach using a term he calls "cheap grace." He comments,
"Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution (set free from consequences of guilt) without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate....The only man that has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ...We...have gathered like eagles round the carcass of cheap grace, and there we have drunk of the poison which has killed the life of following Christ" (The Cost of Discipleship).
The central strategy for fighting for joy in a world filled with sin is preaching the gospel to ourselves. Romans 8:1 says, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death." The secret of gutsy guilt goes hand in hand with what Jerry Bridges calls "Preaching the Gospel to Yourself" in The Disciplines of Grace. In this book Bridges writes, "When you set yourself to seriously pursue holiness, you will begin to realize what an awful sinner you are. And if you are not firmly rooted in the gospel and have not learned to preach it to yourself every day, you will soon become discouraged and will slack off in your pursuit of holiness." Let us consider the concept of gutsy guilt (fighting sin like a justified sinner) and remember to practice preaching the gospel to ourselves daily.